Notes Sophomore Slump Watson of Golf

By Associated PressMarch 4, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 PODS ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Jeff Quinney, No. 71 in the world ranking, must play well the next few weeks to qualify for the World Golf Championship at Doral and keep alive his hopes of playing the Masters for the first time as a pro.
 
Take away his Nationwide Tour record, and Quinney would be No. 40.
 
Because the world ranking measures two years, Nationwide alumni in their second straight PGA TOUR season still have as many as two dozen Nationwide events on their ledger. In Quinneys situation, it works out like this:
 
  • He has earned 106.35 points in 60 tournaments the last two years for an average of 1.77.
     
  • Without the 24 Nationwide events (worth 7.77 points), he would have 98.58. There is a minimum divisor of 40 events, so his average would be 2.46.
     
    Like many players, Quinneys only concern on the Nationwide Tour was earning enough money to finish in the top 25 and move up to the big leagues. But the PGA TOUR felt the Nationwide was a credible circuit that was worthy of ranking points.
     
    Were aware of the situation, and we knew that as we fought to have the Nationwide Tour included in the world ranking, said Andy Pazder, senior vice president of competition. Where it may be working against Jeff Quinney, it helped him his first year.
     
    Pazder said Quinneys ranking points from the Nationwide last year helped him squeak into the top 100 and earn a spot into the PGA Championship. Two years ago, Zach Johnson won on the PGA TOUR as a rookie, and his Nationwide points (two wins, two second-place finishes) helped him get into the U.S. Open and a world event.
     
    The trade-off is being held back the second season. Stephen Marino is in the same quandary. He has made the cut in all seven events this year and is No. 121 in the world. Remove his Nationwide events and points, and he would be No. 72.
     
    Brandt Snedeker would be at No. 21 in the world, but his Nationwide events pulled his ranking to No. 49. But because he had such a strong rookie season, hes eligible for all majors and world events.
     
    Johnson said he believes credibility for the Nationwide Tour comes from more than ranking points.
     
    You throw in what the players are doing now thats all the credibility you need, he said.
     
    In nearly two decades, 99 players who spent time on the Nationwide Tour have won on the PGA TOUR.
     
    TROUBLE AT BAY HILL
    Players headed to Bay Hill next week have been warned not to expect smooth conditions on the greens.
     
    Due to a severe turf disease and invasion of nematode (tiny worms), the PGA TOUR brought in several agronomy experts to try to mend the putting surfaces for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Some sod plugs were used, and there was a second dose of overseeding a month ago. Although officials say conditions have improved, a notice in the locker room at Innisbrook said conditions would not be ideal.
     
    FEDEX CHANGES
    The new FedExCup playoff points structure might be known as the Rich Beem Rule.
     
    Last year, Beem complained the playoffs did not have enough volatility. He started at No. 134, tied for seventh at The Barclays and only moved up to No. 113. Beem was eliminated a week later when he failed to get inside the top 70.
     
    Under the new points system, Beem would have moved up to No. 69 after one week. Should the No. 144 player win The Barclays, he could move all the way up to No. 1.
     
    PGA TOUR officials said the change should increase the number of chances for players to win the $10 million prize from six to 12 mathematically, and from four to about a half-dozen realistically.
     
    But it should be noted who won last year'Steve Stricker (No. 12), Phil Mickelson (No. 2) and Tiger Woods (No. 1) twice. Not often do so many highly ranked players win so many tournaments played in a row.
     
    If anyone down the list should win a playoff event'No. 50, for example' even more players would be in the mix.
     
    ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR
    Golf fans working a crossword puzzle Feb. 22 in the Chicago Tribune must have thought they were getting old or the standard for fame was getting lower.
     
    The clue for 23-down was Watson of Golf.
     
    It couldnt be the obvious'eight-time major champion Tom Watson'because there were five spaces.
     
    Nor was it Denis Watson, who won three times on the PGA TOUR in 1984.
     
    The correct answer was Bubba.
     
    Hes still looking for his first PGA TOUR victory.
     
    DOTTING THE I
    Ever since felt pens have been in vogue, Joey Sindelar has marked his golf ball with one blue dot above and below the number. But over the last few months, he has switched to a single red dot.
     
    Thats a tribute to his son, Jamie, a high school senior who recently decided to attend Ohio State.
     
    I said to him, When you pick a school, thats going to be the color, said Sindelar, who played for the Buckeyes in the late 1970s.
     
    As he went to mark his ball, Sindelar figured he should incorporate the marching bands tradition of the incomparable Script Ohio at football games.
     
    That red dot is strategically placed over the i in Titleist.
     
    DIVOTS
    Brett Quigley tied for 12th at the Honda Classic and earned $115,500, enough to keep his card the rest of the year and compete in The PLAYERS Championship. Quigley started the season on a minor medical extension because of knee surgery. He had seven events to make $67,769. Scott Verplank enters the PODS Championship with 27 consecutive rounds at par or better. The PGA TOUR record belongs to Tiger Woods, who had 52 straight rounds in 2000-01. The English Open will return to the European Tour schedule next year for the first time since 2002.
     
    STAT OF THE WEEK
    Among PGA TOUR events that have been around at least seven years, the PODS Championship is the only tournament not won by a former Nationwide Tour player.
     
    FINAL WORD
    I didnt realize that Tiger was going to win 10 times since I said that.'Ernie Els, on his three-year plan to overtake Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world.
     
    Related Links:
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - PODS Championship
  • Getty Images

    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

    Getty Images

    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

    Getty Images

    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

    Getty Images

    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”